Certain principles underlie the concept of health promotion as an active process: self-responsibility, nutritional awareness, stress reduction and management, and physical fitness.
Taking responsibility for oneself is the key to successful health promotion. The concept of self-responsibility is based on the understanding that individuals control their lives. Each of us alone must make those choices that determine how healthy our lifestyle is. As more people recognize the significant effects that lifestyle and behavior have on health, they may assume responsibility for avoiding high-risk behaviors such as smoking, alcohol and drug abuse, overeating, driving while intoxicated, risky sexual practices, and other unhealthy habits. They may also assume responsibility for adopting routines that have been found to have a positive influence on health, such as engaging in regular exercise, wearing a seat belt, and eating a balanced diet. A variety of different techniques have been used to encourage people to accept responsibility for their health, ranging from extensive educational programs to reward systems. No one technique has been found to be superior to any other. Instead, self-responsibility for health promotion is very individualized and depends on a person’s desires and inner motivations. Health promotion programs are important tools for encouraging people to assume responsibility for their health and to develop behaviors that improve health.
Nutrition as a component of health promotion has become the focus of considerable attention and publicity. A vast array of books and magazine articles address the topics of special diets, natural foods, and the hazards of certain substances, such as sugar, salt, cholesterol, artificial colors, and food additives. Good nutrition has been suggested as the single most significant factor in
determining health status and longevity. Nutritional awareness involves an understanding of the importance of a properly balanced diet that supplies all of the essential nutrients. Understanding the relationship between diet and disease is an important facet of a person’s self-care. Some
clinicians believe that a healthy diet is one that substitutes “natural” foods for processed and refined ones and reduces the intake of sugar, salt, fat, cholesterol, caffeine, alcohol, food additives, and preservatives.
Stress management and stress reduction are important aspects of health promotion. Studies have shown the negative effects of stress on health and a cause-and-effect relationship between stress and infectious diseases, traumatic injuries (eg, motor vehicle crashes), and some chronic illnesses. Stress has become inevitable in contemporary societies in which demands for productivity have become excessive. More and more emphasis is placed on encouraging people to manage stress appropriately and to reduce stress that is counterproductive. Techniques such as relaxation training, exercise, and modification of stressful situations are often included in
health promotion programs that deal with stress. Further information on stress management, including health risk appraisal and stress reduction methods such as biofeedback and the relaxation response.
Physical fitness is another important component of health promotion. Clinicians and researchers examining the relationship between health and physical fitness have found that a regular exercise
program can promote health by improving the function of the circulatory system and the lungs, decreasing cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein concentrations, lowering body weight by increasing calorie expenditure, delaying degenerative changes such as osteoporosis, and improving flexibility and overall muscle strength and endurance. On the other hand, exercise can be harmful if it is not started gradually and increased slowly in accordance with the individual’s response. An exercise program should be designed specifically for the individual, with consideration given to age, physical condition, and any known cardiovascular or other risk factors. An appropriate exercise program can have a significantly positive effect on the individual’s performance capacity, appearance, and general state of physical and emotional health.